The latest version of Captain Chris Pike is a true optimist. Even facing a terrible fate, he is able to stay strong. I have to admit, while a long time Star Trek fan, I grew slowly disappointed by the series as it dove to new pits of despair — culminating with a not very hopeful future of bad robots in the recent Picard series. And that was tragic, as the Next Generation was just so optimistic.
But, if I go back to the dawn of the original series, times were troubled too. The war went on and on in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement advanced with racists across the South feeding waves of violence as protests against the war grew. In such a time of hatred and violence, seeing the future envisioned by Star Trek was uplifting. Humans, it told us, could come together, racism could fall behind us, and in the future — humans could explore as well as believing in knowledge and science. It seemed so far from the turmoil of 1966, and so wonderful that we could hope for a better future.
Then came the rebirth of the TV series in the 80s, and the classic film Star Trek V where Kirk would ask the age-old question “Excuse me? What does God need with a starship?” But the next few series put new plot pressure on the unfailing optimism of Starfleet. And, Discovery was just depressing.
But the best thing to come out of the very confusing season 2 of Discovery was a rebooted Chris Pike and Enterprise. Now the first season of Strange New Worlds is done. It was light at times, fun, with great character, and a lot of bold new openings-but it didn't take itself too seriously, and certainly celebrated much of what made Trek, Trek, without diving too deep in the pool. A diverse cast, and a balanced one — led by a captain brimming with optimism and bordering on impossible.
This was Gene Roddenberry's vision for Star Trek, a place that he hoped humanity would evolve to, learning from many the mistakes of its past. In short, he was hoping to somewhat lead by example: Depict the world operating harmoniously, and perhaps people will believe it is possible. When they tossed in Jim Kirk in the final episode — it seemed to question whether such unbridled optimism could fail against evil — and while it may have, it reminded us that what made Star Trek great was not the writing, the acting, the crappy special effects, or short skirts. No, it was the vision that one day, in the not too far future — after nearly wiping ourselves out, we came to our senses. We stopped killing each other, we stopped fighting, and we stopped hating. We joined tonight and aimed for the stars. And on that alone, I love the new Star Trek. Right up until the very end, life is to be lived boldly. Because, until our last moment, the future’s what we make it.